NASA astronaut John Olivas making appearance at Downey space center Saturday

DOWNEY – NASA astronaut John ‘Danny’ Olivas will be at the Columbia Memorial Space Center this Saturday as the center hosts an Astronaut Commemoration Day. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 disaster, the first time NASA had lost astronauts, and an event strongly connected to the Space Center and the city of Downey. 

“Our site is where the Apollo program was designed and built and, after the Apollo 1 accident, the capsule provided Downey engineers valuable lessons that fundamentally changed NASA,” space center officials said. 

The space center will dedicate a memorial plaque in honor of the Apollo 1 astronauts Saturday. 
The facility also will pay tribute to victims of the Challenger and Columbia disasters. 

“The Columbia Memorial Space Center is invaluable in preserving the memory of the ultimate sacrifices paid by heroic individuals in pursuit of science, as well as proliferating the cause of the human exploration of space,” said Olivas. “We owe it to them, ourselves and the generations yet to come to continue our search for the truth in the infinite sea of stars that is our universe.”

Saturday’s event will include engineers who worked on the Apollo program and were familiar with the forensic work on the Apollo 1 capsule 50 years ago. 

Additionally, members of the Space Shuttle design team will give insight into the Challenger and Columbia disasters. 

The day also includes special activities throughout the center, self-guided tours of the Challenger Learning Center, and solar viewings provided by the Columbia Astronomers, along with a brief ceremony dedicating the Apollo 1 plaque. 

The space center opens at 10 a.m. and the program begins at 11:45. Admission is free part of SoCal Museum Free Day. 

Olivas was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1998. He has participated in two space missions, including STS-117 Atlantis, the 118th Shuttle mission and the 21st mission to visit the International Space Station, delivering the second starboard truss segment, the third set of U.S. solar arrays, batteries and associated equipment.